Fitting into a new family

o-INDIAN-WEDDING-facebookIn most places in India, when a woman gets married, she gives up her space and lets go of her cherished material attachments. Going into a new house, a woman is expected to start appreciating and often own a completely new space, its people, its material things and its systems. Some of us women might tend to approach this ‘adaptation’ with the intent of ‘fitting in’. Somehow, we are expected to and often find ourselves wanting to adapt to the new surroundings, doing what it would take to ‘please’ people around us to create an environment of peace and harmony. Very often, bending backwards has no limit and even if you were the best acrobat in the world, figuratively, you could never bend backwards enough to deserve applause from your in-laws!

If only Darwin was alive – he could perhaps have cited a detailed case study of an Indian bride while writing about ‘the survival of the fittest’. It is, after all, a classic case of a living being getting uprooted from a comfortable and secure environment, being thrown into a completely new setting and being left with pretty much no guidance on how to survive. Even though some urban women might contest this scenario, I would argue that irrespective of class, religion or region, this does hold true for the most part. Even women who might join finishing schools are not spared, as no school that I am aware of, teaches the secret to form and maintain a wonderful relationship with in-laws.

Think back to the time when you just got married. If you accepted everything that came your way, chances are, you may not be completely ecstatic about your present life. If you, however, remember having had some tough conversations, mostly about defending yourself or taking a stand, hopefully you have been able to reap the benefits and command respect for yourself.

Creating your happiness in a new environment is less about creating your physical space in the form of clothes or jewelry or a larger bed or a car and is more about creating space in the minds and hearts of people around you. Creating your own space and a new identity in congruence with your original self is tougher, takes more time and often encompasses dealing with resistance and heartbreaks. It means speaking your mind, standing up for what you believe is right, challenging the norm, making bold recommendations and often, role modeling the culture you expect to create. It is really the most stringent on-the-job ‘leadership’ training that I have witnessed. If you have been in a working environment, you might resonate with having trouble conceding to the demands of a new household, think of it as a leadership challenge. Why should your goal be just to ‘settle in’? Why not take charge and ‘lead from the front’?

As they say, if you don’t have your own dream, someone will get you to follow theirs. So whose dream do you choose to follow?

This post is a reproduction of my weekly column  written for The Goan (http://thegoan.net).

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Ready or not. Here I come !

Parents-Sleeping-With-Kids-PhotoThere is a socially defined construct that we all live in and tend to abide by. Before a certain age, you must be married. After a certain number of years of marriage, you must have your child. Post that, you preferably have a second child because two children are the norm…on and on…

While I think at each stage, women find themselves dealing with the challenge of ‘what people will think or say’, even if they don’t want to, one of the toughest challenges for a working woman in today’s times, has become that of producing a baby. I say ‘produce’, because to many in her lives, and sometimes, to her too, that is what it really boils down to.

The timing is a very tricky one. When is the right time for a woman to have a baby? Should you start planning? After two years of your marriage no matter what your financial or relationship status is like or should you wait it out till later in life till you and your spouse feel ‘ready’ for a child? Nobody knows the right answer. The only guidepost that exists is this: every decision has consequences and it is important to acknowledge those consequences before jumping ahead.

So, for a working woman, when exactly is the right time to have a child? Here are some questions to help you think through and hopefully arrive at a decision.

a)    A child is a life-long responsibility. It might mean dealing with many things which are predictable like your workload to many things which might be unpredictable like the health of the child or the impact of a child on your relationship. Are you ready to deal with all of this?

b)   Raising a child requires finances. Do you feel financially secure with the assets you have, assuming you might not be able to contribute to the finances for a while?

c)    Parenting is done best when in a partnership mode. Do you believe your spouse is ready and more importantly, available, to be a parent? If not, are you willing to be the solo parent?

d)   If you have not been able to conceive yet, are you willing to go through multiple visits to the doctors and try out various options till such time you have a child? It might take years and there is still no guarantee. Are you ready to deal with that?

e)    How much of being a parent is about producing a child for you? If it is not, then are you willing to consider adoption?

A baby is a human being. A baby has needs, wants and desires. As a parent, if you are around and are happy, you would be able to bring up your baby well. Think about what you are willing to do to be a good parent. At the end of the day, it is not just producing a child, it is raising a child well. Every day. For the rest of your life.

This post is a reproduction of my weekly column  written for The Goan (http://thegoan.net).